Philadelphia Union II began the MLS NEXT Pro era on a strong footing, knocking off FC Cincinnati 2 behind a pair of timely goals and strong defense for the 2-0 win at Subaru Park on Sunday afternoon.
Head Coach Marlon LeBlanc had five members of the Union's MLS squad inserted into the Starting XI for the inaugural contest to provide growth for the group during the club's break. The MLS five were joined by four signed Union II players and a pair of Academy prospects for the first match. Union II came out of the tunnel from the River End and were quickly celebrating with a strike just four minutes in. Homegrown Anton Sorenson began the historic goal with a long throw in that put forward Chris Donovan in space on the flank. Stretching the Ohio defense, the Drexel product played a centering pass to Carlos Paternina. The Colombian was calm with his first touch and fired it past the keeper for the 1-0 lead.
Just like the first team, Union II employed the organization's high press that kept FC Cincinnati 2 on the back foot and unable to generate any scoring chances. The defense and midfield work put in across the board saw Cincinnati take just two shots and place on on goal during the 90 minutes.
Union II's pressing continued in the second half that resulted in an important insurance goal. Cole Turner intercepted a pass in the midfield and quickly turned into the attack with a threaded long ball into the attacking third. Noticing the two on one opportunity, forward Stefan Stojanovic dummied the defended that sprung Jesus Bueno into the box from Turner's pass. The Venezuelan blasted a right-footed chance that the keeper was able to get a hand on but the pace was just too much as it trickled in for the two-goal advantage.
As the clock ticked upward, LeBlanc called upon his substitutes to finish out the match with Nelson Pierre getting his professional debut. The Academy product nearly made it a memorable debut but saw his attempt in the 83rd minute denied by the defense.
Philadelphia Union II is back in action on Sunday afternoon as they make the trip south to face off against Inter Miami CF II. Kick off from Florida is set for 5 p.m. ET with the match streamed on MLSNEXTPro.com.